South Sudan Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #8

May 25, 2017

  • Ongoing violence displaces an additional 200,000 people in April.
  • Health actors report suspected cholera cases in Aburoc.
  • US government (USG) announces $142 million in new humanitarian assistance.
  • Violence across South Sudan displaced an additional 200,000 people in April, increasing the total number of displaced people to 3.8 million, including 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 1.8 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries.

    On May 24, the U.S. Government (USG) announced more than $142 million in new humanitarian assistance for famine- and conflict-affected populations in South Sudan and South Sudanese refugees in the region. The new assistance includes $17.6 million from USAID/OFDA, nearly $62.3 million from USAID/FFP, and more than $62.5 million from State/PRM to respond to the humanitarian needs of South Sudanese refugees.

    Numbers At A Glance

    2.0 million

    IDPs in South Sudan


    Individuals Seeking Refuge at UNMISS Bases

    1.8 million

    Refugees and Asylum Seekers from South Sudan in Neighboring Countriesy


    South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda


    Refugees from Neighboring Countries in South Sudan

    Humanitarian Funding

    For the South Sudan Response

    USAID/OFDA $160,272,573
    USAID/FFP $627,896,110
    State/PRM $122,725,439



    In early May, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GoRSS) raised registration fees for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country, including an increase from $500 to $3,500 for international organizations, USAID partners report. Civil society and humanitarian organizations have expressed concern that the fee increase could negatively impact the operations of smaller NGOs and hinder the timely delivery of relief assistance to populations in need.

    On May 9, GoRSS President Salva Kiir dismissed General Paul Malong as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) Chief of General Staff and appointed General James Ajong as his replacement, international media report. While the change in military leadership has not immediately impacted the humanitarian crisis, relief actors reported heightened tensions in the capital city of Juba in mid-May and expressed concern that the dismissal could result in additional armed conflict, potentially increasing humanitarian needs and negatively impacting relief operations.

    On May 12, USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) staff attended a memorial hosted by the South Sudan NGO Forum in Juba for the 84 aid workers killed in South Sudan since the conflict began in December 2013. The DART continues to coordinate closely with humanitarian partners to improve the safety of personnel in the field, as well as urge GoRSS officials to improve access for relief organizations operating in South Sudan.

    Escalation of conflict across South Sudan prompted an estimated 200,000 individuals to flee their homes in April, the UN reports. As of May 3, the total population displaced by the conflict had increased to approximately 3.8 million, including nearly 2 million IDPs and more than 1.8 million refugees sheltering in neighboring countries.

    Renewed conflict and heightened tensions in Upper Nile State caused tens of thousands of individuals to flee their homes during April and May. Insecurity has also prompted secondary displacement; many vulnerable populations who fled Upper Nile’s Kodok and Tonga towns to the state’s Aburoc town in late April have since departed the town for more secure areas of Upper Nile or neighboring Sudan, USAID/OFDA partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports. However, overall displacement from Aburoc has slowed in recent weeks due to seasonal rains, the arrival of UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeeping troops, and improvements in humanitarian conditions and services at IDP settlements in the town, according to IOM.

    As of late April, Western Bahr el Ghazal State’s Wau town hosted an estimated 61,700 IDPs. According to the UN, more than 39,000 people were sheltering at the protected area adjacent to the UNMISS protection of civilians (PoC) site in the town, representing an increase of approximately 55 percent from the 25,000 IDPs registered in the protected area in March. Relief organizations report that the recent population surge has resulted in a shortage of food, shelter, water, and other critical resources. With support from USAID/OFDA, IOM continues to provide safe drinking water, basic health care services, and psychosocial support to populations sheltering in the protected area. To ease overcrowding, humanitarian actors are also constructing additional communal shelters.

    On May 4, local authorities in Wau evicted more than 6,600 IDPs sheltering in a church collective center, the UN reports. Following the eviction, an estimated 2,000 IDPs relocated to the nearby Hai Massna IDP settlement, where relief actors report security concerns and a lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and other critical infrastructure. Relief actors urged local authorities to reconsider the evictions and allow IDPs to decide whether to return to the church collective center. In addition, humanitarian organizations have called for authorities to ensure that IDP relocations are dignified, informed, safe, and voluntary.

    Armed opposition elements launched an attack on Central Equatoria State’s Yei town on May 16, but later retreated in an effort to preserve the safety of civilians, according to the UN. Ongoing violence in Yei and surrounding areas has obstructed humanitarian access since July 2016, when clashes in the town first began. According to a report released by UNMISS and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, pro-government forces killed at least 114 individuals in Yei between July 2016 and January 2017. During the same period, relief actors documented reports of burning and looting of civilian property, indiscriminate shelling of civilians, gender-based violence, and targeted killings by both pro-government and opposition forces, although the number of incidents perpetrated by opposition forces is difficult to quantify due to lack of access to areas where the groups are active. Despite insecurity in the area, a UN interagency response team provided health care services, nutrition screening, mosquito nets, and WASH support to approximately 17,000 IDPs in nearby Goli town in early May.

    As of May 14, Uganda hosted approximately 916,800 South Sudanese refugees, an increase of more than 43 percent from the 640,000 South Sudanese refugees recorded in January, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports. According to the UN agency, more than 12,200 South Sudanese refugees arrived in Uganda during the week of May 8—an average of nearly 1,750 refugees each day. Elevated levels of conflict in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria State have contributed to increased arrivals in recent months, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports.

    According to MSF, humanitarian conditions in refugee settlements in Uganda near the South Sudan–Uganda border have deteriorated as a result of overcrowding. The NGO reports that many South Sudanese refugees lack sufficient access to water, food, shelter, and protection, despite ongoing humanitarian response activities.

    Relief actors reported 90 humanitarian access incidents in South Sudan in April—the highest number of incidents recorded in a single month to date in 2017, according to the UN. GoRSS military operations in Jonglei and Upper Nile states contributed to the increase in incidents, which included attacks against aid workers, bribery, looting, and violence against humanitarian compounds and civilian infrastructure. Insecurity during April also resulted in the relocation of more than 100 aid workers, the UN reports.

    The nutrition situation in South Sudan remains critical, exacerbated by heightened levels of acute food insecurity. In early May, USAID partner the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that global acute malnutrition (GAM) levels in Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Unity states exceeded the UN World Health Organization (WHO) emergency threshold of 15 percent. GAM levels in Unity’s Mayendit and Leer counties, where populations are facing Famine—IPC 5—levels of acute food insecurity, were more than 27 percent and 20 percent, respectively.6

    To meet the emergency needs of vulnerable populations in South Sudan, UNICEF is coordinating with USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP) to provide food, nutrition, and other critical humanitarian assistance through mobile teams under the integrated rapid response mechanism (IRRM). The IRRM is a platform that enables staff from UNICEF, WFP, and other relief organizations to provide rapid emergency assistance—including food distributions, acute malnutrition screening and treatments services, and emergency health, protection, and WASH interventions—to communities in hard-to-reach areas of the country. WFP plans to deploy IRRM mobile teams to 28 additional locations across South Sudan in the coming weeks to provide emergency food assistance to up to 429,000 food-insecure individuals, including approximately 86,000 children younger than five years of age.

    To date in 2017, WFP has reached 2.8 million people in South Sudan with emergency food assistance, including cashbased assistance to more than 425,000 people in April. In recent weeks, the UN agency provided food assistance to more than 123,500 people in Mayendit, approximately 53,250 people in Eastern Equatoria’s Kapoeta North and Kapoeta South counties, and more than 19,000 IDPs in Aburoc. WFP also continues to pre-position food assistance for distribution during the May-to-September rainy season, which typically renders many areas of South Sudan inaccessible by road. As of May 21, WFP had pre-positioned nearly 105,000 metric tons (MT) of food commodities— approximately 92 percent of the nearly 115,000 MT designated for pre-positioning—in strategic locations across the country.

    The current cholera outbreak in South Sudan, which began in June 2016, has generated more than 8,160 suspected cases as of mid-May and recently spread to new areas of the country. MSF recorded the first suspected cholera case in Aburoc during the week of May 8 and had recorded up to 400 suspected cholera cases in the town as of May 19. Reported cholera transmission in Aburoc has increased concerns among relief actors, given the town’s inadequate WASH infrastructure, limited availability of safe drinking water, and the current rainy season.

    Health and WASH actors are supporting cholera prevention and response activities in Aburoc as access permits. MSF continues to provide health care services, including the treatment of acute watery diarrhea—a key symptom of cholera—through a mobile hospital. Through the USAID/OFDA Rapid Response Fund (RRF), IOM is coordinating with relief actors to improve access to safe drinking water in Aburoc. In addition, UNICEF recently distributed mosquito nets and soap to approximately 5,000 households and water purification tablets to more than 3,000 households, and WHO plans to conduct cholera vaccinations in Aburoc in the coming days to prevent further spread of the disease.

    With support from the RRF, USAID/OFDA partners are also responding to cholera transmission in other parts of the country. NGO Doctors with Africa CUAMM plans to establish cholera treatment units in Lakes State’s Yirol East and Yirol West counties, provide supervision and coordination of local response actors, and distribute messaging to prevent cholera transmission. Additionally, American Refugee Committee (ARC) plans to train health workers and establish oral rehydration points in Eastern Equatoria.

    USAID partner, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is distributing emergency food assistance, bolstering livelihoods, and providing WASH support to vulnerable communities in Jonglei and Lakes. In Jonglei’s Duk County, CRS recently mobilized 15 technical staff and recruited 25 community outreach workers to register beneficiaries, conduct hygiene promotion activities, distribute WASH supplies, and rehabilitate latrines and water sources. As of early May, CRS had provided approximately 3,100 households—more than 17,000 people—with WASH supplies, including buckets, chlorine tablets, soap, and water containers. CRS has also reached approximately 5,000 people with cholera awareness messaging and rehabilitated three boreholes to improve access to safe drinking water for more than 1,500 individuals. In the coming weeks, CRS plans to establish 10 emergency public latrines in Duk and coordinate with local leaders to organize waste removal to reduce public health risks.

    The January 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the GoS and the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) officially ended more than two decades of north–south conflict during which famine, fighting, and disease killed an estimated 2 million people and displaced at least 4.5 million others within Sudan.

    The GoRSS declared independence on July 9, 2011, after a referendum on self-determination stipulated in the CPA. Upon independence, USAID designated a new mission in Juba.

    On December 15, 2013, clashes erupted in Juba between factions within the GoRSS and quickly spread into a protracted national conflict with Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile representing the primary areas of fighting and displacement. On December 20, 2013, USAID activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to lead the USG response to the developing crisis in South Sudan. USAID also stood up a Washington, D.C.-based Response Management Team (RMT) to support the DART.

    On August 26, 2015, GoRSS President Salva Kiir signed a peace agreement that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and other stakeholders had signed on August 17. Opposition leader Riek Machar returned to Juba and was sworn in as the First Vice President (FVP) on April 26, 2016; GoRSS President Salva Kiir appointed a Transitional Government of National Unity on April 28.

    Fighting between SPLA and SPLA-IO forces broke out in Juba on July 7, 2016, displacing thousands of people and prompting FVP Machar to flee. As a result, the U.S. Embassy in Juba ordered the departure of non-emergency USG personnel from South Sudan on July 10. Ongoing heightened tensions persist in the country, and the humanitarian situation remains precarious. On January 5, the U.S. Department of State ended the ordered departure status for the U.S. Embassy in Juba.

    Insecurity, landmines, and limited transportation and communication infrastructure restrict humanitarian activities across South Sudan, hindering the delivery of critical assistance to populations in need.

    On October 14, 2016, U.S. Ambassador Mary Catherine Phee redeclared a disaster in South Sudan for FY 2017 due to the humanitarian crisis caused by ongoing violent conflict, resultant displacement, restricted humanitarian access, and the disruption of trade, markets, and cultivation activities, which have significantly increased food insecurity and humanitarian needs.

    On February 20, the IPC Technical Working Group declared Famine—IPC 5—levels of food insecurity in Unity’s Leer and Mayendit.